Thursday, February 27, 2014

"The Trip Back Down" Stuck in Neutral by M.R. Hunter

Sometimes, you can’t go back. John Bishop’s 38-year-old drama about a down-on-his-luck stock car racer receives a thoughtful but frustrating revival at the Whitefire Theatre. Ironically, the main impetus of the formulaic storyline cruises down memory lane as Bobby Horvath (Nick Stabile) returns to his hometown of Mansfield after a near fatal accident on the track and perpetual failure.

Playing on Broadway for two months in 1977, “The Trip Back Down” probably had more muscle in its own time than it does now. It’s stout and unwieldy plot would benefit from a major overhaul by restoring the predictable drama from its clunky 2.5 hours to a lean, mean 90 minute machine. As it stands, the play putters along aided by the efforts of a strong ensemble pushing it forward.

House of Blues Crossroads Restaurant at Downtown Disney - Anaheim, California by Valerie Mitchell

Crossroads at House of Blues has a new menu created by Chef Aaron Sanchez who you may have seen on the Food Network. There are Southern classics and modern dishes including steak, seafood, burgers and vegetarian options.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Last Weekend! Ensemble Theatre Company Gives "Good People" a Good Turn by M.R. Hunter

David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” at the New Vic in Santa Barbara imbues this multi-layered drama about class, conscience and integrity with robust performances and verve. The Tony-nominated play received its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in 2012 with Jane Kaczmarek as Margaret, a “Southie” Bostonian struggling mother from the wrong side of town, but this production with Alicia Sedwick in the role is as good if not better in its frankness.

Being frank is part of Margie’s charm but also her downfall when she finds herself unemployed, uneducated and without options due to a checkered past and a sharp tongue. Her hard-edged persona though is a front to hide the rising panic and vulnerability that slyly reveals itself. Caught by circumstance and misguided choices from her teenage years, Margie’s desperation spurns her to go begging for a job from a former high school flame who made good as a doctor, now living in the posh side of town, Chestnut Hill, a far cry from the projects they grew up in.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Eyestrology: Happy Birthday Pisces! by Cici Psy-Chic

For the month of 2/18/14-3/20/14

Happy birthday to these celebrity February Pisceans: Dr. Dre (2/18), Seal (2/19), Rihanna (2/20), Jennifer Love Hewitt (2/21), Drew Barrymore (2/22), Dakota Fanning (2/23), Floyd Mayweather Jr. (2/24), Sean Astin (2/25), Fats Domino (2/26), Josh Groban (2/27), Bernadette Peters (2/28), Tony Robbins (2/29)

Celebrity March Pisceans: Ron Howard (3/1), Daniel Craig (3/2), Jessica Biel (3/3), Patricia Heaton (3/4), Eva Mendes (3/5), Shaquille O’Neal (3/6), Bryan Cranston (3/7), Aidan Quinn (3/8), Matthew Gray Gubler (3/9), Chuck Norris (3/10), Johnny Knoxville (3/11), Ron Jeremy (3/12), Dana Delany (3/13), Billy Crystal (3/14), Eva Longoria (3/15), Curtis Lovell III (3/16), Mia Hamm (3/17), Queen Latifah (3/18), Bruce Willis (3/19), Spike Lee (3/20)

Ole dreaded Mercury is in retrograde until Feb. 28. That means an uptick in delays, miscommunication and technological snafus. This would be an ideal time to lay low and take a personal assessment about springing forward come March. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to hit the gym or join in a yoga class to get our bodies beach-ready. Relaxation and rejuvenation is the best way to beat the retrograde blues so book a day at the spa or grab a pal for a mani/pedi. The best way to deal with our anxiety is by nursing ourselves into better form, face and fashion.

Get the detailed forecasts for all of the signs... 

Book Lovers Go Antiquarian in Pasadena by Robert Kerr

This past weekend was the 47th California Antiquarian Book Fair at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The show alternates locations every other year from being held in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

This year, the show celebrated Shakespeare's 450th birthday with a panel discussion of what people ate during the Bard's time, art displays, and lots of old editions of Shakespeare's works on display and for sale.

There were over 200 exhibitors from all over the world with books on various subjects from anatomy to children's classics. The price of the books could range from $25 to well over $100,000. Among these were rare signed editions by Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, and Ray Bradbury.

In the lobby there were displays on loan from private collections and libraries, as well as information about antiquarian book societies. Here, visitors could see a replica printing press like the one Benjamin Franklin used. This was provided by the International Printing Museum located in Carson. They were very informative about how the printing press revolutionized the way the world had access to information. A two man crew working a press like this could turn out 300 pages a day, as opposed to about 10 pages a day copied by hand. They also allowed you to print a page with a line from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2 to keep as a souvenir. 

Paperback Collectors Show & Sale

Coming up on Sunday, March 16th, is another great book show. The Paperback Collectors Show is the largest vintage paperback show in the world. Now in its 35th year, it will be in a new location: Glendale Civic Auditorium. Vendors from all over the country will be offering paperbacks and pulps of all genres.

Throughout the day there will be author signings by Harlan Ellison, Dennis Etchison, Earl Hamner, William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson, and many others. The show is from 9:00 - 4:00 and admission is $5.

For a complete list of author and artist appearances and signing times check their website:

More upcoming BOOK EVENTS 

Time to get inappropriate at Filmforum

Curators Jaimie Baron, Lauren Berliner and Greg Cohen will be on hand to introduce the world premiere of the 6th edition of the Festival of (In)appropriation. Founded in 2009, the Festival of (In)appropriation is a yearly showcase of contemporary short audiovisual works that appropriate film or video footage and repurpose it in "inappropriate" and inventive ways. 

Whether you call it collage, compilation, found footage, détournement, or recycled cinema, this kind of work generates novel juxtapositions of elements which produce new meanings and ideas unintended by the original makers – meanings and ideas that are, in other words "inappropriate." 

This year's show includes new work by Gregg Biermann, Celeste Fichter, Zoe Fothergill, Josh Hite, Soda_Jerk, Justin Lincoln, Emma Osbourn, Cheryl Pagurek, Liz Rodda, Kelly Sears, Scott Stark and Tina Takemoto.

For more event information:, or 323-377-7238
Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Tickets are available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.

Friday, February 7, 2014

“The Real Thing” at Two Roads Theatre Forgets its Real Audience by M.R. Hunter

Audiences are funny things. They can be as interesting as the show itself, if not more in some respects. 

Picture, if you will, an assemblage of 50 theatergoers gathering on a dreary evening, made gloomier by the drizzle and the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. It was a Superbowl Sunday and yet, these people had tromped out to see Tom Stoppard’s biting romantic comedy “The Real Thing.”

These people braved the elements. They parked their cars. They wore perfume and ran a brush through their hair. In other words, they came prepared and eager. A few may have been friends or family of the performers and felt dutifully obliged to dash out after a football party to support their relations. No matter the motivation for being there—they were and to their credit, the audience was in lively form.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Compton Drive-in, Compton, SoCal, 1979 by Charles Phoenix

About 20 years ago, curiosity got the best of me and I decided that I just had to see the house that my mother grew up in in Compton, CA. My grandparents moved out of the house when I was 5-years-old and I hadn't seen it since. So I looked up the address and headed over there.

I turned the corner and there it was, just as I had pictured only waaay smaller. As I sat in my idling car staring at the house, a rush of long forgotten childhood memories reran in my mind.

I was spellbound.

But not nearly as spellbound as when I looked up at the end of the street and saw a gigantic framed mural of Viking ships sailing on a choppy sea and generously labeled with the handwritten name of the city. It was the Compton Drive-in towering over the entire neighborhood.

I didn't have even the faintest childhood recollection of this mid-century marvel, shocking as it may seem. I thought I was dreaming. Researching as soon as I got home, I learned that it was beautifully built in 1949 by the largest local drive-in chain, Pacific Drive-in Theaters.

For the next couple of weeks I bragged all over town about my drive-in discovery. Finally I went back to take a closer look. Once again I turned up the old street and there was my grandparent's former home…

Winter on the Central Coast: Elephant Seal Mating and Birthing

Head up the coast to a natural habitat for local elephant seals.  These gigantic creatures (males with faces only a mother could love) can weigh up to 2000 lbs and females log in around the 1500 lb range. Volunteer docents are available and eager to explain what is going on when you are visiting. Elephant seals can be seen here all year long but they are actively mating and giving birth during the winter months. It is totally FREE to visit and enjoy. Take a camera and binoculars.

This is a mother and her two day old pup I saw in December.

The Elephant Seal Rookery located on Hwy 1 (PCH) is approximately half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco which makes it an ideal weekend getaway from either city.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Charles Phoenix Presents: Bob Baker's 90th Birthday Party and Puppet Show!

Bob Baker is an L.A. institution who will celebrate his 90th birthday Feb. 9th at his famous Marionette Theatre downtown.  Five years ago I attended his 85th birthday and it was a fantastic event. Charles Phoenix makes a great host.  This isn't a kiddy show, it's a show for all who appreciate all that Bob Baker has been to this city and a rare opportunity to see and even meet Bob Baker and some of his antique puppets.  There is very limited seating to this very special event, so I highly recommend that you get tickets asap.

Join Charles on February 9th (Bob’s actual birthday) for a very special evening of celebration at the legendary Bob Baker Theater, now in its 55th season! 

Cake and ice cream will be served in the colorful party room following the historic puppet show performance and birthday celebration. Festive attire is highly encouraged!

Ticket link for the celebration.

More info about the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre at

More information about Charles Phoenix at

PS: The following weekend is a holiday weekend for many (Presidents Day) and Palm Springs is a great weekend getaway destination. Charles Phoenix will be in Palm Springs on Saturday, the 15th, doing a live slide show performance celebrating Palm Springs area landmarks, Googie, mid-century mod, themed-environments, and more at the Palm Springs Art Museum (More Info.) When I visit the area I love to ride on the Aerial Tramway

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Horse Around on Chinese New Year Weekend & Superbowl Sunday

January 31, 2014
Get Your Pom-Poms & Umbrellas Ready

KUNG HEI FAT CHOY! Chinese New Year is kicking off this weekend with the 115th Annual Parade on Saturday from 1pm -3pm. Get there early and claim your spot along the route while watching the floats and festivities set up. There's no need to let a little drizzle keep you from enjoying this dazzling event. Those pretty paper umbrellas could make this parade more spectacularly colorful among the onlookers. It should be interesting to see Mayor Eric Garcetti as Grand Marshal of the parade. Wonder if he'll sport a bright silk jacket like former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa?

LESS SPORTS, MORE SIGHTS: Superbowl Sunday pits the Seattle Seahawks against the Denver Broncos. It should be an exciting game but for those who aren't into putting their game face on, there are lots of things to do and see that are also indoor friendly.
ANYTHING GOES: Some things are always fun to do... Check out our Places to Go Anytime and Things To Do pages for plenty of ideas that are available on a regular basis.
  • HEALTH & FITNESS - Shed last year's pounds before spring.
  • ART - Take in a new gallery or sit in on a talk by local artists.
  • RECREATION - The weather is ideal for outdoor activities.
  • MUSIC & CONCERTS - Discover a new band or solo singer.
DiscountsDISCOUNTS - there are some really good ones right now. From whale watching to kids shows to festivals... entertain yourself at a discount. All at very reasonable prices. Even better, most of the discounts offered are direct from the event/activity producers and do not involve additional fees to receive the discount.
TIP OF THE ICEBERG: you'll find lots more events and other things to do near you - on our neighborhood and regional calendar links at the bottom of all Eye Spy LA web pages.

Have a Happy Weekend!